Tech: Links for 7th January, 2020

In similar vein to yesterday’s post, these five articles are about what to expect in tech in the year 2020. This Sunday’s video will be along similar lines, by the way.

  1. Venturebeat chooses 10 technologies that the magazine is excited about for 2020. If you ask me, autonomous driving is (mostly) already here. Commercialization of quantum computing is something I am very, very excited by – although I can’t, even now, understand it as much as I’d like to.
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  2. “And 5G will be going to work behind the scenes, in ways that will emerge over time. One important benefit of the technology is its ability to greatly reduce latency, or the time it takes for devices to communicate with one another. That will be important for the compatibility of next-generation devices like robots, self-driving cars and drones.For example, if your car has 5G and another car has 5G, the two cars can talk to each other, signaling to each other when they are braking and changing lanes. The elimination of the communications delay is crucial for cars to become autonomous.”
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    Brian X. Chen with a rather more prosaic list for 2020.
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  3. “In life sciences, we’ll have greater understanding of the dynamics of how our microbiome – the tiny organisms, including bacteria, that live in the human body – influences multiple systems in our body, including our immune systems, metabolic processes and other areas. This will result in seminal discoveries related to a variety of conditions, including autoimmune diseases, pre-term birth and how our metabolism is regulated. Regenerative medicine approaches to creating new tissues and organs from progenitor cells will expand significantly. ”
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    The World Economic Forum weighs in on the issue.
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  4. “Even if the gene drive works as planned in one population of an organism, the same inherited trait could be harmful if it’s somehow introduced into another population of the same species, according to a paper published in Nature Reviews by University of California Riverside researchers Jackson Champer, Anna Buchman, and Omar Akbari. According to Akbari, the danger is scientists creating gene drives behind closed doors and without peer review. If someone intentionally or unintentionally introduced a harmful gene drive into humans, perhaps one that destroyed our resistance to the flu, it could mean the end of the species.”
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    Fast Company ponders a world in which Black Mirror is non-fiction.
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  5. “Ten years from now is “the end of the
    classroom as we know it,” George Kembel of the Stanford d.school
    writes. Professors will be a “team of coaches,” and class projects
    will be like Choose Your Own Adventure — open-ended and actually pretty fun.”
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    Fast Company again, this time in 2010, trying to figure out what the world looks like by the time it is 2020. I can assure you that they got education completely wrong.

Tech: Links for 24th December, 2019

Beginning today through until the 31st of December, I’ll link to five pieces from each category that I enjoyed collating this year. There’s no science or overt logic to any of them: I’m just going to scroll through the posts, and replug those that I enjoyed re-reading. Hopefully, next year, I’ll get a little more scientific about it. Happy holidays!

  1. Let’s help ourselves understand Stratechery and it’s Aggregators concept.
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  2. I wish the world would get more excited about Oumuamua!
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  3. I hope to be working (from a writing papers viewpoint) on urbanization in the coming year.
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  4. I am an unabashed fan of Google, and it’s products. With some caveats, about which I hope to write in the coming year. But kudos to them for doing what they do, especially in education!
  5. Five great reads from The Ken.

Tech: Links for 17th December, 2019

Five articles from The Ken today.

This is not, by any means, either an endorsement or a recommendation to subscribe to The Ken, neither do I have any contacts at this website. I have been a subscriber for a while now (though not yet a paying one), and I wanted to share a selection of their free articles to acquaint you with their write-ups, their business, and to familiarize you some alternative business models in the world of media.

  1. On the food delivery plastic problem (menace?) in India.
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    “Aggregators are stuck in an awkward spot between arbitrary regulations on plastic containers, and a partner network that, at best, is extremely heterogeneous in its attitude towards reducing plastic waste at source. The lack of suitable alternatives makes the job even harder. By Zomato’s own account, plastic waste from online food delivery adds almost 22,000 metric tonnes to India’s garbage pile every month, most of which, they admit, is dumped sans recycling.”
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  2. “The Indian grocery market is currently a $400-$500 billion market, according to Ankur Pahwa, head of e-commerce and consumer internet at advisory services firm EY. However, says Pahwa, the penetration of e-commerce in this space is just 0.5% at the moment because of the supply chain challenges involved. Despite this, Pahwa predicts the share of online groceries will double by 2021.”
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    Cracking the un-crackable: dealing with groceries and hyperlocal deliveries in India.
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  3. What’s bugging TrueCaller? No excerpts: read the whole thing! Also, yes, I have uninstalled the app after reading this.
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  4. “Tesla’s hardly the only one powering the shift to lithium. Battery-makers like Korea’s LG Chem, China’s BYD and CATL, as well as Japan’s Panasonic are doubling down on lithium-ion battery production to capture the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) market in China.

With a mission to electrify 30% of its vehicles by 2025, what share does India have of this global, lucrative and largely Asian manufacturing pie?

Currently, zero.”
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On trying to understand why India doesn’t have a gigafactory yet – and might not in the near future, with a short concluding section on how to make the best of what is a bad situation.
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5. “Hotstar’s watershed moment came in May 2019, when it broke its own global record of 10.3 million concurrent viewers. 18.6 million watched the final game of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament during the weekend of 11-12 May. It shattered the record again in July when 25.3 million tuned in to watch India take on New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup semi-final.

But its appeal isn’t just sports. Hotstar has given viewers major titles like Game of Thrones—which it said was its most popular show in 2019—and blockbuster films like Marvel’s Avengers: End Game.”
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On understanding Hotstar better.

Tech: Links for 10th December, 2019

  1. “To be clear, both roles can be beneficial — platforms make the relationship between users and 3rd-parties possible, and Aggregators helps users find 3rd-parties in the first place — and both roles can also be abused.”
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    The always excellent Ben Thompson on regulating monopolies online, drawing a distinction between platforms and aggregators. His articles, as I have mentioned before, are always a delight to read, and this one in particular is a great collection of links to articles he has written before. Plus, this article is inspiration, if you will, for the links that follow.
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  2. “Columbia University law professor Tim Wu coined the term “network neutrality” in a 2003 paper about online discrimination. At the time, some broadband providers, including Comcast, banned home internet users from accessing virtual private networks (VPNs), while others, like AT&T, banned users from using Wi-Fi routers. Wu worried that broadband providers’ tendency to restrict new technologies would hurt innovation in the long term, and called for anti-discrimination rules.”
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    An excellent explainer from Wired about Net Neutrality.
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  3. “For years, I winced at how Big Tech approached regulatory matters. When they wade into policy matters, they fail to see the bigger picture — and the younger the company, the worse they are at this. The hole that Facebook has dug for itself is entirely because its leadership seemed to believe that if they stayed within the letter of the current law they wouldn’t be regulated. This is a completely naive and ahistorical view. And this view has prevented Facebook from innovating in their own policy space. Without that policy innovation, we are left with essentially nonsensical suggestions to break up Facebook — which wouldn’t actually solve any of the issues anyone has with Facebook.”
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    If you’re looking to do research in this field, you can’t not read Joshua Gans. This is just one of many excellently argued articles. Do read the whole thing!
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  4. The internet activist Nikhil Pahwa lists out his expectations about the future of internet regulation in India. Agree or disagree (as usual, I fall in the middle), it is worth reading.
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  5. “More generally, however, the bigger Google gets the more countries it has a physical presence in (servers, sales staff and support etc.) and thus the more leverage individual countries, especially large countries, will have to degrade the services that Google offers not just within-country but to the world.”
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    Alex Tabarrok gives a fun example and a chilling analysis in the same short blog post.

Tech: Links for 3rd December, 2019

  1. “Both Starship and Starlink are transformative technology being built before our very eyes, here, in our lifetimes. If I live long enough my grandchildren will be more flabbergasted that I’m older than Starlink than that I’m older than cell phones (museum pieces) or the public internet itself.”
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    A fascinating write-up on Starlink: its economics, its pricing, its upsides, its downsides, and the underlying strategy. A very long read, and I’ll admit I didn’t get all of it – but rewarding nonetheless.
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  2. “To finish this post, I’m going to revisit its starting point. Starship is still seen by many in the space media community as a slightly overgrown version of any other rocket, with reusability tacked on. This is an error of analogy. Starship fundamentally changes our relationship with space.Starship is a devastatingly powerful space access and logistical transport mechanism that will instantly crush the relevance of every other rocket ever built.””
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    And so also for Starship.
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  3. “…the venture capital pouring into astrology apps will create a fortune telling system that works, because humans are predictable. As people follow the advice, the apps’ predictive powers will increase, creating an ever-tighter electronic leash. But they’ll be hugely popular – because if you sprinkle magic on top, you can sell people anything.”
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    Speaking of stars
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  4. “But using models is inherently tricky. We can never be certain that our model behaves enough like the thing we are actually trying to understand to draw conclusions about it. Nor can we be sure that our model is similar enough in the ways that really matter. So it can be hard to know that the evidence we collect from the model is truly evidence about the thing we want to know about.”
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    Evidence and proofs are very tricky to think about.
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  5. “This requires more ingenuity than you might think—wires have never been perfectly transparent carriers of data; they have always degraded the information put into them. In general, this gets worse as the wire gets longer, and so as the early telegraph networks spanned greater distances, the people building them had to edge away from the seat-of-the-pants engineering practices that, applied in another field, gave us so many boiler explosions, and toward the more scientific approach that is the standard of practice today.”
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    The very first link above includes a link to this gem of an essay by Neal Stephenson. Written in 1996, it still is a great read!

Tech: Links for 26th November, 2019

  1. “Basecamp says Basecamp Personal is designed “specifically for freelancers, students, families, and personal projects,” and with it, you can make spaces for up to three projects, work on these projects with up to 20 users, and store up to one gigabyte of data in those projects. The new tier seems to put Basecamp in direct competition with free tiers from other project management tools like Asana and Trello, as well as workplace chat software like Slack and Microsoft Teams.”
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    Basecamp launches a new, free tier of its project management software – and it is certainly worth signing up.
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  2. “The bus ticket theory is similar to Carlyle’s famous definition of genius as an infinite capacity for taking pains. But there are two differences. The bus ticket theory makes it clear that the source of this infinite capacity for taking pains is not infinite diligence, as Carlyle seems to have meant, but the sort of infinite interest that collectors have. It also adds an important qualification: an infinite capacity for taking pains about something that matters.”
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    Lots to  unpack in this latest essay by Paul Graham.
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  3. “As Kristal’s business grew, she needed help with all this unboxing and re-boxing, so she started looking for a prep center. There were about 15 at the time, she says, mostly in New Hampshire, Oregon, and Delaware, which have no sales tax. That way, sellers can enter the address of their prep center when they buy from Target’s website and pad their margins by a couple percent. Montana has no sales tax either, Kristal mused, and there wasn’t a single center in the online directory. Sensing an opportunity, she decided to give prepping a try. She chose a name — Selltec — and put it up on the directory, too.”
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    Who ever gets bored learning more about Amazon? Heard of a town called Roundup?
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  4. “These newfangled warehouses have come up in Bhiwandi — known for its century-old power looms industry which still exists in the interiors of the city — only in the last five years or so. Here, online retail companies such as Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, Pepperfry, Grofers and Bigbasket, among others, store their goods in what the industry calls fulfilment centres or FCs. When a customer places an order on one of these online platforms, the item ordered is packed in these FCs, sorted according to the delivery location and dispatched in a delivery vehicle for its final destination. Third-party logistics companies (called 3PLs) such as DHL, Blue Dart, DTDC, Safexpress — the entities that deliver these goods to the customers’ doorsteps — also have their own FCs here. Like a local train on a busy Mumbai station, a delivery truck enters and exits these centres every 30 seconds.”
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    Meanwhile, in Bhiwandi
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  5. “But Musk says he knows what went wrong, and explained things on Twitter. Right before the metal ball test, von Holzhausen smacked the door with a sledgehammer on stage to prove its durability (and unlike the glass, it was fine), and Musk says this impact “cracked base of glass,” which is why the windows subsequently smashed when hit by the ball.”
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    Ah ok then.

Tech: Links for 19th November, 2019

  1. “Altman had long wanted to start his own nuclear-energy company; instead, he had YC fund the best fission and fusion startups he could find. Then he personally invested in both companies and chaired their boards. Thousands of startups are devoted to social interaction, and fewer than twenty to fission and fusion, but, Altman said, “hard things are actually easier than easy things. Because people feel it’s interesting, they want to help. Another mobile app? You get an eye roll. A rocket company? Everyone wants to go to space.””
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    Reading this paragraph in this New Yorker profile of Sam Altman lies behind the other four links today. But this particular article is so very fascinating in its own right, for a variety of reasons.
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  2. “Cold fusion is nuclear fusion at room temperature and normal pressure. Nuclear fusion is the process by which many nuclei, the center of an atom, containing protons and neutrons, are forced to join together to form a heavier nucleus (singular of nuclei) and during that process, energy is released. Some scientists hope that this may be Earth’s future energy source, but most scientists do not agree.”
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    The simplest article I could find on a topic I know very little about, even after having read about a dozen of them today: cold fusion. All but impossible is the consensus, but that doesn’t stop a lot of people from being very excited about its prospects.
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  3. A rare failure in terms of being clear about the topic – cold fusion –  from the usually reliable eli5 series from Reddit (Sam Altman is an investor, by the way)
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  4. “­NASA is currently looking into developing small-scale fusion reactors for powering­ deep-space rockets. Fusion propulsion would boast an unlimited fuel supply (hydrogen), would be more efficient and would ultimately lead to faster rockets.”
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    7 pages from How Stuff Works about the same topic, explaining in some detail how it might work.
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  5. “There is one point on which all true believers in cold fusion agree: their results are not reproducible. To most scientists, this implies that cold fusion results are not believable, but true believers suggest that this unpredictability makes them more interesting!”
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    Scientific American, in a useful, but somewhat dampening overview of the field.

 

All things considered, cold fusion is worth reading much more about – and I hope to be able to do more of that in the days to come.

Tech: Links for 12th November, 2019

I have used some of these resources partially, and none of these completely. More as a bookmark to come back to for me (and maybe for you), these are five free resources to help you learn how to code.

  1. Grasshopper by Google.
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  2. The Odin Project, fully open source.
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  3. Lectures from Harvard University on Computer Science.
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  4. edX courses on coding.
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  5. … and finally, Khan Academy on coding.

Tech: Links for 5th November, 2019

  1. “Wearable technology, wearables, fashion technology, tech togs, or fashion electronics are smart electronic devices (electronic device with micro-controllers) that can be incorporated into clothing or worn on the body as implants or accessories.”
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    Wikipedia on wearables.
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  2. Wearbles are bigger than you thought.
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    “Wearables are now bigger than iPad and will soon be bigger than the Mac. And the glasses are supposedly coming next year, and the $250 AirPods Pro just shipped.”
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  3. You’ve heard of Google Glass, presumably. But uh, one ring to rule ’em all…?
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    “Amazon is experimenting with putting Alexa everywhere, and its latest experiment might be the wildest yet: a new smart ring called the Echo Loop that puts Alexa on your finger.”
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  4. “And it goes without saying that the technology still matters: chips need to get faster (a massive Apple advantage), batteries need to improve (also an Apple specialty), and everything needs to get smaller. This, though, is the exact path taken by every piece of hardware since the advent of the industry. They are hard problems, but they are known problems, which is why smart engineers solve them. ”
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    The ever excellent Ben Thompson, writing about wearables in 2016. He was bullish then, and I suspect will be even more bullish now.
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  5. All of which, I hope, will help contextualize Google’s latest acquisition.

Tech: Links for 29th October, 2019

  1. Aadisht writes on his blog about a podcast he listened to recently, about journaling. Worth reading, and maybe listen to the podcast too? I haven’t.
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  2. I used this service for a long time, and did daily journaling fairly regularly for a period of about three, maybe four years. But OhLife wasn’t financially viable, and since then, I just haven’t been able to get into the habit again. It was a very simple service – every night, at 8.30, they’d send you an email, asking you to log your entry, and over time, they’d show you what you’d written a week, month or year ago. Haven’t found anything as good, or as simple, since.
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  3. Tim Ferriss explains his morning routine when it comes to journaling, and explains its importance.
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  4. Zapier lists out ten journaling apps (I don’t have a clear favorite…)…
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  5. As does Lifehacker.